Kingsport summit work groups give BMA update

Matthew Lane • Updated Dec 17, 2015 at 8:33 AM

KINGSPORT - City leaders this week got their first update on the progress being made by the One Kingsport summit work groups – seven groups formed in the aftermath of the summit to shepherd broad themes, such as downtown revitalization and improved housing, into specific ideas for implementation.

The One Kingsport summit brought together 190 business and community leaders, regular citizens, elected officials and Millennials all with a sole purpose in mind: to kick-start the process of developing a five-year road map for the Model City.

In the lead-up to the summit, city staff and a mayor-appointed committee came up with seven focus areas vital to Kingsport’s future: arts and entertainment, destination city investments, downtown revitalization, health and wellness, higher education innovation, housing and entrepreneurship.

Each focus area now has a work group of interested folks whose job it is over the next few months to come up with specific recommendations to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. These recommendations will likely include some “low hanging fruit” easily implemented, but also some longer range – and higher priced – projects.

During Monday's worksession, the BMA heard updates from two of the work groups – downtown and destination city. Development Services Director Lynn Tully explained to city leaders the seven work groups have been laying out the ground work for their charge, the process, any pitfalls and what they've experienced so far.

City Planner Justin Steinmann said each of the groups have met at least once. The downtown group – the largest of the seven groups with 28 members – has met twice and plans to again after the holiday season.

“One of the things we're excited about is we've got a great foundation here,” said Beverley Perdue, who spoke on the work done so far by the downtown group.

Perdue's husband John also spoke, saying the downtown work group is very engaged and is striving to meet every two weeks. Members have developed a mission statement and discussed what they see as downtown.

The work group has also been divided into three sub-groups, each with a different charge.

“One team is charged with looking at the variety of plans made previously for downtown, another has been charged with taking output from the summit on downtown revitalization and the third team is looking at the output of all seven groups at summit,” John Perdue said.

The next step for the downtown group will be to choose some major themes to pursue, divided into teams by theme and then digging deeper and gathering additional information, John said, learning as much as possible, then bringing these ideas back to the full work group and see how each one fits together with the other ideas.

“The downtown has so much momentum and push...I feel comfortable with the progress,” Mayor John Clark said on Monday.

For the destination work group, Assistant City Manager for Administration Chris McCartt gave the update, saying members had met once and that the meeting was basically an organizational meeting, though some discussion took place on what members considered a destination city investment, what Kingsport already has and what Kingsport truly needs.

A consistent theme coming out of the destination city work group was beautification, McCartt said, and the overall presentation of the city.

“We have great parks and a downtown, wonderful neighborhoods. How do they all connect and how does that connection look?” McCartt said. “We also went back and asked ourselves, do we have plans on the shelf that are saying the same things we're saying now? Can we take them off the shelf and put them back into play?”

The next meeting of this work group is scheduled for Jan. 5 with the homework being to come back and define what a destination city investment is.

“Much of what we present (to the BMA) will be within one to five years, but there will be some things that will fall outside that,” McCartt said.

Mayor Clark asked the group to think about something Kingsport has never done, that would make the city unique to the region.

“What have we not done, that we're capable of doing, that really differentiates us from every other city in the region? We need to have more thinking outside of the box,” Clark said.

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